Traditional Georgian Food: Whether you are travelling to come and eat food in Georgia, or just looking for the best things to eat at a Georgian restaurant near you, this list cuts out the chaff and just gives you the absolute tastiest Georgian dishes to try. From Khinkali (Georgian soup dumplings) to Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread), find out exactly what to eat in Georgia.
If you want to go deep and learn all about the history of Georgian food, as well as explore way more dishes (more than 40) then we have a mega guide and podcast all about traditional Georgian cuisine. We also run food and wine tours in Georgia with our partner company Eat This! Tours.
Traditional Georgian Food
It really is as good as all the hype suggests it is. It’s in my top 5 world cuisines, after 95+ countries visited. The food of Georgia is one of the reasons I first came here in 2016, and now live here. After coming back a few times, I realised I couldn’t live without it 🙂
All 15 dishes on this list are available in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, and arguably the best place to eat because Traditional Georgian Food from all over the country is represented in Tbilisi. There are so many amazing restaurants in Tbilisi!
So, if you are only going to try a few Georgian dishes, these are the most essential to get your mouth around.
1. Khinkali – ხინკალი – Soup Dumplings (Traditional Georgian Food)
Khinkali comes in many varieties – meat filled being the most common. It’s a large, boiled flour dumpling, the size of a 5 year old’s fist, which wraps around a slurpable filling. Minced meat (beef, or pork & beef, occasionally lamb) is mixed with water, herbs, and spices, and sealed inside the dough. The water turns into soup as the meat mixture lets all it’s flavors blend into it. Your khinkali will arrive on your table steaming hot and you have to carefully bite a small hole in the side to suck out the contents without spraying volcanically hot soup all over your shirt.
The thick top piece is used like a handle and is discarded after you eat the bottom part of the khinkali.
Khinkali is everywhere, being considered one of Georgia’s national dishes. You can have it as a starter, snack, share plate, main course… I’d even happily eat it for dessert. Georgians eat piles of khinkali at every sitting. They are normally made fresh to order so can take time (20 to 30 mins).
A fiercely debated topic, but these are our current top places to eat Khinkali in Tbilisi:
Amo Rame Khinkali – Best all beef, handmade khinkali
9MTA – Great Beef/pork khinkali, and also good sulguni cheese khinkali (Also, big craft beer menu)
Klikes Khinkali – Best Cottage cheese & sulguni mixed cheese khinkali
2. Khachapuri – ხაჭაპური – Georgian Cheese Bread
There are many types of Khachapuri – Georgian Cheese Bread.
The most popular are:
- Imeretian Khachapuri – From Imereti region, central-west Georgia. Plain bread stuffed with cottage cheese. The lightest (on calories) of all the options, and so very popular as a simple side dish.
- Megruli Khachapuri is from the Samegrelo region of western Georgia. It’s a flatbread that is stuffed with a layer of cottage cheese, then topped with grated sulguni cheese and baked to golden. Upgrade to the Royal version of this, and shortly before it is finished, slabs of sulguni are added to the top and it’s briefly returned to the oven so they can melt and ooze just a bit. Calorific wonder.
- Adjaruli Khachapuri comes from the southern Ajara region of Georgia. It’s a deep filled cheese boat! Loaded with cottage cheese, then topped with sulguni cheese (similar to mild cheddar), and browned in the oven. It’s severed by being topped with a raw egg that cooks on the hot cheese, as well as a wedge of butter that melts all over.
There are many other versions to discover too!
Where? Retro, Tbilisi – Map Location – We ate Adjaruli Khachapuri in many places. Retro was a stand out winner. The dough is less sweet than other variations, which we loved.
3. Phkali – ფხალი – Vegetable Mousse (Traditional Georgian Food)
Phkali in Georgian cuisine is a mousse made from a ground vegetable mixed with walnut paste and other herbs. In this mix plate (Called Gobi) we had Bulgarian red pepper (amazing), beetroot mousse, leek mousse, carrot mousse, as well as cheeses, pickles and corn bread.
Where? Shavi Lomi mainly because of that Bulgarian red pepper dip! Advanced reservations essential.
4. Mtsvadi – მწვადი – Skewered Barbecue
Mtsvadi is Georgian Barbecued meat, and boy does Georgian cuisine include a lot of barbecue options! The Georgian Shashlik equivalent is big chunky pieces of skewered meat, sometimes with bone in. You’ll find many restaurants with a giant barbecue station outside, almost always wood burning to give even better flavour. Khaketian style pork mtsvadi is the best!
Where? Chashnagiri, Tbilisi – Map Location – Is probably the best mtsvadi in Tbilisi, though that is a tough competition. Pictured above, the best mtsvadi ever, cooked by our friend Soso in Kakheti, sadly not available to the public 🙁 Sorry!
5. Nigvziani Badrijani – ბადრიჯანი ნიგვზით – Walnut Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
Fried eggplant wrapped around a spiced walnut paste.
Eggplant is a tricky ingredient. In Georgia the eggplant is rarely salted before cooking to remove the excess bitterness. This led to many versions of this dish we tried having a bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the most available dishes in Georgian cuisine but was not one of our favourites.
6. Salad With Walnut Paste – კიტრი და პომიდვრის სალათი ნიგვზით
A traditional Georgian summer salad with cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and a walnut sauce.
If you hit Georgia in the summer, Georgian pink beef tomatoes are filling the local markets and are at peak ripeness. Perfectly ripe tomatoes give you the best version of this dish.
Where? Aristaeus Ethno Wine Bar – because their walnut paste is a winner.
7. Lobio – ლობიო – Beans in pot (Traditional Georgian Food)
Finishing up the savory dishes with one of our favourite simple sides (but it also makes a good filling main course with bread for those on a budget). Salty and wonderful kidney beans baked in a pot. Sometimes with chilies. Many cultures have beans in a pot style dishes. What makes lobio unique is the recipe often includes walnuts. This brings a completely new dimension to beans in a pot.
8. Ojakhuri – Baked Pork and Potatoes
Prime bits of pork rib, loin etc. are all mixed together and roasted in the Ketsi (the clay oven dish) with potatoes, onions and a ton of butter. This dish is incredible comfort food. An absolute must if you travel to Georgia. But some restaurants serve with the potatoes a little soggy. So get the best…
Where? Restaurant Maspindzelo, Tbilisi – Map Location – Tested in 4 different restaurants. This version was the standout winner for crispiness of pork and potatoes and rich buttery flavour. AMAZING.
9. Erlaji OR Erlaji With Smoked Ham
What may look like an uncooked dough, erlaji is actually a mix of ground polenta and cheese (heavy on the cheese). It’s heated and stirred constantly to form an incredibly stretchy dough. It’s a chewy, cheesy delight that tastes much better than it looks.
It’s even better when topped with smoked Georgian ham from Racha or Abkhazia.
Where? Amra, Tbilisi – Map Location – At time of writing this is the only Abkhazian restaurant in Tbilisi. Visiting the state of Abkhazia is complicated for tourists, so eating in Tbilisi is a much easier option. The Erlaji with Abkhazian ham is one of their most popular menu items.
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10. Kubdari – Svanetian Beef Stuffed Bread
Kubdari originates from west Georgia. The regular flaky bread pastry you’d get in many flat and round Khachapuris, is instead stuffed with spiced meat. The original, and best version, has big thick slices of beef inside the dough. A common variant, that is still good, uses minced beef instead.
Where? You can find Kubdari in many restaurants in Tbilisi, but the best version we had was in Mestia, Svaneti. Read About What To Eat In Svaneti Here.
11. Shoti Bread / Tones Puri
Your standard table bread in Georgia is anything but standard! Slightly crisped edges and base, it is cooked inside a round stone oven (tone) slightly similar to a tandoori oven. You can get it at almost every restaurant, but it’s best when served straight from the oven – which some restaurants do.
12. Chicken Shkmeruli – შქმერული – In milk and garlic sauce
Chicken is first roasted or fried to get the skin crispy. For the urban version, it’s then added to a milky garlic soup – with plenty of butter – and sometimes cream. The countryside version of this is often just a garlic sauce without the milk or cream added.
Where? Shavi Lomi make theirs quite creamy, and it’s the best in Tbilisi! Advanced reservations essential.
13. Veal Kalia – ხბოს კალია
Melt in the mouth veal, slow cooked in white wine, onions and pomegranate juice. This is quite a rare dish and I’ve barely seen it on any menus, but it’s one of my favourites.
Where? Georgian House – Reservations essential, ask to be seated in the Tifilis Hall. They also have traditional singing and dancing from 8pm daily.
14. Trout stuffed with walnut paste and sulguni
Trout is probably the easiest to find fish on Georgian menus. But don’t just go for the standard grilled trout, make your trout more Georgian by getting it stuffed with the Georgian walnut paste and sulguni cheese. You’d think fish stuffed with walnut paste would be weird, it’s not, it really works!
Where? Sabotono, Tbilisi – Map Location – The trout here was perfect and not fishy at all.
15. Churchkhela – ჩურჩხელა – Georgian Snickers
We rarely make it to dessert when there is so much cheese to eat. But, you can’t really write about Traditional Georgian Food without mentioning their national dessert. Churchkhela is made by boiling and thickening the leftovers from the winemaking process. Then walnuts are threaded on a string and dunked in the sweet grape goo, then left to air dry and mature. All the locals call them Georgian snickers as they have a similar texture to the chocolate bar.
Want to learn more about Georgian Food? Read Our Georgian Cuisine Mega Guide.
Visiting Georgia? We’ve got a lot of articles to help you plan the best trip.
And, if you want a tasty food or wine tour, check out our partner company Eat This! Tours.